Zombie Traffic Lights: A New Pedestrian Safety Tech that Doesn’t Bite

Officials in Israel are working to protect people who are so engrossed in their phones, that they’re “unknowingly” stepping out into traffic.

Sound a bit extreme? We thought so too. But I guess this is a big problem in Tel Aviv. So we say, “Power to you, Israeli officials! Thanks for the new invention we can soon bring to America.”

There’s even a name for people who are so absorbed in their screens, they ignore their surroundings: “smartphone zombies.” (it’s a real thing, check Wikipedia)

Like distracted driving, distracted walking takes your focus off the most important task: safely getting where you’re going. In response to this uniquely twenty-first century concern, Tel Aviv’s engineering department is testing a new technology aimed at stopping these distracted pedestrians in their tracks, The Times of Israel reports.

Dubbed a “zombie stop light,” it’s an LED light strip installed in the sidewalk, that flashes the color of the upcoming stoplight: red and green. The idea is, people literally don’t have to look up from their Facebook feeds before walking into traffic (or stopping for the light).

Anyone else feel a little uneasy about this? I mean, if I’m walking along, I would like for other people to be watching where they’re going… you know… so they don’t run smack into me?! (or a dog, or one of those cute outdoor restaurant tables, spilling wine all over the couple on their first date)

Though only in the trial stage in Tel Aviv, similar traffic devices can be found on crosswalks in Europe, China, and Australia. According to The Washington Post, the Dutch town of Bodergraven-Reeuwijk piloted these pedestrian stop lights in 2017.

Some safety groups fought against this new technology, arguing that these devices only encouraged distracted walking. Officials responded by defending the technology, saying, “As a government, we probably can’t reverse this trend, but we can anticipate problems.”

All right, all right. I guess you have a point, government officials.

Though zombie traffic lights have yet to find their way to the U.S., distracted walking’s impact on pedestrian safety is certainly a growing concern. The Governors Highway Safety Association reports that the national number of pedestrian fatalities is at its highest in decades, and distracted driving and walking were both listed as potential factors contributing to this number.

Perhaps soon we’ll be able to put our Best Foot Forward, right across zombie traffic lights along Park Avenue in Winter Park, or down I-Drive.

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